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The unexpected road: Hilary’s journey to becoming TPC Leadership Partner 

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Hilary Harvey, a highly effective consultant and coach, has recently made the transition from Associate Partner to Partner of TPC Leadership UK. So we decided to mark the occasion by talking with Hilary about her career journey so far. 

“With hindsight, my career’s always made sense even if it didn’t make sense to me at the time,” says Hilary. “It’s been about taking one step at a time and reflecting on what I really value and what I want going forward.”

From an early interest in language and politics to becoming a management consultant and working with a former Prime Minister, Hilary had an extremely varied career even before joining TPC Leadership. But one common thread throughout has always been her drive to support the public and community sector.

A global citizenship mindset

As we speak, behind Hilary is a collection of small flags: those of India, the UK, Trinidad, and the UN. They’re like the ones that sit on conference tables in front of international delegates, and in fact Hilary says she got hers from a UN conference she attended a few years ago.

“I just loved the idea of having flags that represented my cultural mix,” Hilary says. “The Indian flag is for where my mum is from and the Trinidadian flag is for where my dad is from. The UN flag for me is a symbol of the importance of having a global citizenship mindset and a real appreciation and valuation of different cultures.”

Hilary herself was born in the UK, but she spent the first eight years of her life in Guyana where her mother worked teaching French. When Hilary and her family moved back to England in 1990, her father became a modern languages teacher at secondary school.

“Both of my parents spoke French and Spanish just because it interested them, and eventually the rest of us picked it up from them,” Hilary says. “We grew up with a real love of languages at home, and we knew there was more out there than our own experience.”

Discovering consulting

“I didn’t come out of uni knowing specifically what I wanted to do,” Hilary says. “I knew I had an interest in international work, but I couldn’t afford to do an unpaid internship with an NGO.”

Like most graduates, Hilary tried her hand at everything from waitressing and bar work to PR and marketing internships to find her fit. Having been a youth MP as a teenager, she knew she wanted to do something in the public sector and make a social impact, but the jobs just weren’t there.

“Then I came across management consulting,” Hilary says. “I had no idea what it was, I’d never even heard of it before. But I wanted to try something radically different, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could be successful in an area I didn’t know anything about.”

After doing a bit of research, Hilary decided that consulting was just the kind of challenge she’d been looking for, and she joined Accenture. Unsurprisingly, she applied to join the company’s public sector branch, where she started out working on big public sector IT transformation projects.

“I could have decided to go super corporate, but I was very clear I wanted to work in the public sector,” Hilary says. “While my peers went into FMCG and were working in shiny offices with big brands like Vodafone and Diageo, I was with the Department for Work and Pensions in Newcastle, which wasn’t shiny at all!”

Getting stuck into community engagement

“I knew I wouldn’t spend my whole career in management consulting,” Hilary says. “After a few years I managed to work on the Prime Ministerial Council for Social Action. It was chaired by Gordon Brown and brought together business leaders and big names in socially-conscious business.”

As the programme manager, Hilary worked closely with the large East London charity Community Links. She continued to work with the charity afterwards as a freelance consultant, all while training as a youth worker with Teens and Toddlers, and running freelance programmes for youth groups and communities.

“That was my step out of the corporate world and into a different kind of space,” Hilary says. “It was an amazing bridge because I was still doing the kind of work I’d been doing with Accenture, but now I was embedded within the social sector.”

Always looking for a new challenge, Hilary then joined Tempo Time Credits, a social enterprise helping to transform local communities through volunteering.

“They were scaling up from two people working in the Welsh valleys,” Hilary says. “I was there as a development manager to help them grow. When I left they had about 25 people and they’re still going now, and I feel pretty proud of that work.”

Joining TPC Leadership

Hilary first got involved with TPC Leadership when she took our foundation coaching training in 2012. She followed that up with a coach practitioner programme and then senior practitioner training in 2014.

“I thought coaching was such a great way of working with people,” Hilary says. “When I finished my training I started doing some associate work with TPC Leadership. Over the years I gradually did more public sector and community work with them, and then at some point I thought, ‘Most of my work is with TPC Leadership now!’”

Hilary’s first major project with us was helping to pitch and win Leading Together, a patient and clinical leadership programme that brought together medical professionals and service users.

“It seemed a really natural fit,” Hilary says. “Co-productive leadership is what I’d been doing in my previous job, the pitch process reminded me of Accenture, and working with patients and medical professionals was really aligned with the public sector and social care work I’d done previously.”

Hilary has been a valued part of TPC Leadership ever since, bringing her expertise to our coaching and development work in the public sector in particular. As Partner, Hilary now plays a key role in shaping the future of the business.

“My career’s been a case of emergence, it’s not been planned at all,” Hilary says. “But what has been planned has been taking the time to reflect at those transition stages and going back to what values are really important to me.”

Looking for leadership development or consultancy? Get in touch with us to find out how we can help.

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